As the news every day is dominated by the horrendous war in the Ukraine, I was wondering how on earth a poem could be written that wasn’t just a rant about the way things have developed. I watched a report on the BBC given by CliveMyrie before he left the Ukraine. He told how the Ukrainians are determined not to give up. He told the story of the woman who came out of her basement to feed the pigeons – that image stuck in my mind – this was someone desperate to retrieve some part of her normal daily routine.
‘It was the first time in 48 hours that I had left our lodgings – a basement car park in the heart of Kyiv which had become a make-shift bomb shelter…
I didn’t really see her face, but at her feet were several cooing pigeons. Every now and again, a shower of birdseed would tumble from her hand. She was wearing a heavy-looking grey coat, keeping out the late morning winter chill.
The woman feeding the pigeons would have spent the past two days in her own basement as well, and I thought it was interesting that one of the first things she did was to feed the pigeons – as if nothing was awry. An ordinary day out, a bit of fresh air, with no threat of death from above.’
With the image of that woman in my mind, I compared that with my weekend.
Seeds of Hope This weekend after a two day curfew in Kyiv a woman steps out from the basement shelter a shower of bird seed tumbles from her hand for the pigeons at her feet
This weekend I planted sunflower seeds they’ll shelter safely in the ground fed by gentle showers of rain until they raise heads to the sun
So many people these days find themselves homeless, find themselves in foreign places after fleeing from wars, floods,famine, injustice,persecution and more.
Facing the climate crisis brings the prospect of homelessness very real to many more. War and walls seem to be continually on the agenda throughout the world. I belong to the charity Dove Tales https://www.dovetalesscotland.co.ukand our next event is on October 4th in Wigtown during the annual Wigtown Book Festival. Our forthcoming anthology Bridges or Walls will be out soon and our readings on 4th October will feature some of the poetry and prose from that publication.
How is it possible to feel that sense of belonging when forced to move to another country? It’s the actions of others that can help to make this possible by making them feel welcome, by inviting them to share meals, living spaces and time.
We have been fortunate in that we moved over the border to Scotland nearly twenty years ago and feel that this is where we belong. Our daughter moved to New Zealand fourteen years ago and considers that country very much her home. But our moves were entirely voluntary. For those people much less fortunate, we can only begin to understand what it feels like to be uprooted.
The Pianist of Yarmouk
some called him mad
using music to fight
he fought with his fingers
fought for humanity
fought for the children
as he played their songs
only salt water to drink
only cats dogs and grass to eat
senseless killing all around
so he played his piano
he played in the streets
the children sang with him
nobody came with food
but he came with music
he came with joy for them
he came with hope for them
Isis came with fire
killed his piano
Fortunately this story had a happy ending. He now lives in Germany and is reunited with his wife and son. This poem was inspired after I had heard him being interviewed on In Tune on Radio 3. It’s possible to read his inspiring and moving story on the web.
It made me realise that writers like him can probably reach more people than many politicians. Think how many have either read War Horse or seen either the stage version or film. Think how many folk you have heard talking about it – I’ve overheard two conversations in the last few days referring to it. Think how many will have read the book as a child and then thought more seriously about war and the disastrous long lasting effects as a result.
This weekend was the Spring Book Weekend in Wigtown and I was reading, alongside others from
None of us has the high profile of Michael Morpurgo, but hopefully the words within this anthology will make some people more aware of the futility of war and the atrocities inflicted on the innocent.